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Chasing The Story…by Jennifer Probst

September 18, 2020

Sometimes, I forget that writing is like life. You can have clear goals, focus on the finish line, and do the work nonstop to get there. But many times, the end is just out of reach—like the treasure keeps tauntingly moving a few steps ahead of you until you wonder:

Was this a good idea in the first place?

Is this not meant to be?

Will I ever really get there?

I’ve pondered these questions through books I wondered if I hadn’t been meant to write, projects that seemed like a great idea at the time but then blew up, and personal goals that seemed to dissipate in the harsh morning light.

Most of the time, I get there, though. The funny thing?

Many times, the end was not what I imagined it to be.

I found an old folder with some of my rough notes sketched out for the development of some books I had written. After leafing through them, I was amazed at how much changed of the original story concept. I’ve always been a pantser—I figure out the story as I go along—but I do have firm ideas of character, rough plot, or specific scenes I was excited to write.

Would it have been an even better book if I’d stuck with the plan?

Maybe. But maybe not. And who cares at this point? The book is out in the world and I can say I’m damn proud of every book I put out there. Each one was lovingly crafted and contains my blood, sweat and tears.

Next time, I’d like to be more graceful in accepting the end is not what I planned. Most times, the road branches off to bigger roads and we find out later, they were all intermingled the entire time. You cannot break off one and get the same result years later.

Story is like that. An idea nugget grows and shoves us off in different directions. I think many writers freeze and don’t even try to finish the book because of all the overwhelming choices—and our stubborn refusal to accept the end may be different. This doesn’t mean plotters are wrong to be frustrated if the book isn’t getting written as planned. It’s more of a concept that if we allow ourselves to experience the surprises along the way, we may find the end is better than what could have even imagined.

The seeds have always been planted. The whisper in your ear, teasing you forward.

But it takes a bit of faith. Trust. Belief in creativity and our ability to get there.

I think with the harshness of the world lately, with all the challenges and toxic culture and raw emotions pouring forth, it would be nice to take a gentler approach to our writing. To be more open to possibilities and surprising outcomes.

I’m trying to do this more in my writing right now, and my life. I like the way it’s turning out, too. My achiever mode is sometimes a bit frustrated, but I’m reminding myself going slower and taking the long path doesn’t mean we’re not getting to the end.

We’re just taking a more leisurely, scenic route. And if we smell the flowers and listen to the creak of branches under out feet and experience the hot sting of the sun on our face along the way?

Well, wasn’t it more pleasant? Who cares if it took longer if I enjoyed the journey more? How could that be wrong?

We’re still chasing the story. Our stories.

But we’re chasing them with more joy.



Write True

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  1. Kathryn Salvaggio says:

    Thank you for this. I’m so stuck in my head that I’ve forgotten to listen to my people. After all, they know where they are going better than I do! Without joy (and flowers and branches and faces warned by the sun) the story will be joyless. And who wants to write that, let alone read it!

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